Emotional Abbott claims fourth U.S. Championships crown

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BOSTON — Jeremy Abbott knew that when he skated off the ice at TD Garden Sunday he would be crying.

“I was going to cry today – good or bad,” he said to reporters.

For Abbott, he wiped tears of joy off his face as he stepped off U.S. ice one last time, set to retire after this season

The 28-year-old backed up a solid short program Sunday afternoon at the U.S. Championships, holding on for first place and seemingly booking himself a spot in his second straight Olympics.

It was teenager Jason Brown who stole the show earlier, skating to “Riverdance” and landing eight triple jumps and finishing to a standing ovation from the crowd before he was even done.

Ashley Wagner named to Sochi Olympic team

The 19-year-old Brown, who doesn’t have a quad, jumped his way from third to second and will be in the running for the second of two spots the U.S. men are allotted for the Sochi Olympics.

The official team will be announced Sunday night at a press conference at TD Garden.

Abbott, who is coached by former world champion Yuka Sato, cut it close to the one-minute time period skaters are given before starting his free skate, only realizing he needed to begin because the crowd began counting the seconds down. But when he did, he got underway strongly, landing a quad toeloop.

“I have to thank the audience,” Abbott said, laughing. “Without them I would have been disqualified.”

When he finished, Abbott spent a little more time on the ice, savoring the situation.

“I was trying to take it all in,” he said in regards to standing at center ice. “I knew that I skated well enough to win and this was my last national performance. I wanted to try and take a second and appreciate the audience and all the support I’ve had through the years.”

The Colorado native had set an American record in the short program with a score of 99.86. In the free skate, he scored a 174.41, which was lower than Brown’s 182.61, though Abbott held on to win by four points overall.

Max Aaron, champion in 2013, finished third behind Brown by 10 points. The former hockey player could land a place on the team if the selection committee sees his experience – he was in the top eight at the World Championships in March – as having prepared him better for Sochi.

But Brown made his case this season, scoring a medal at the Paris Grand Prix and then a silver here.

“I really have no control at this point whether I’m on the team or not,” Brown told reporters at a press conference. “I didn’t allow myself to consider the Olympics until halfway through this season. Over time I’ve gotten more and more confident that this could be a reality, and each event this year has helped that.”

Abbott, who won the U.S. Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2012 before this year, has struggled on the international stage, placing ninth at the 2010 Vancouver Games and finishing outside the top six in three out of four World Championships appearances.

“Four years ago everything was just about being on the team,” Abbott said. “It was like jumping into an abyss. But after the 2012 season we put a lot of work into our training and into our structure. I believe in it – it’s been paying off very slow and steady.”

Results
1. Jeremy Abbott – 274.27
2. Jason Brown – 270.08
3. Max Aaaron – 260.44
4. Josh Farris – 248.06

U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

Sebastian Korda
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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. No nation will have more. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Monday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

An American man is already guaranteed to reach the third round — Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second-ranked female golfer Nelly Korda, next faces Isner.

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Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

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